The Arty Semite

Yeshiva Museum Goes Back to School

By Forward Staff

Courtesy Yeshiva University Museum

Yeshiva University Museum has received a grant of $135,900 to expand its Re-Imagining Jewish Education Through Art program. The grant comes from The Covenant Foundation, and is part of the $1.2 million in grants approved by the foundation in January. The foundation plans to distribute a total of $1.7 million this year.

According to a press release issued by YUM, the program follows a model of “creative aesthetic education” created by the Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts and applies it to Jewish education. The museum will partner with the Lincoln Center Institute to train teachers in New York and elsewhere.

YUM has already run the program in three New York high schools — Heschel High School, SAR High School, and Yeshiva University’s Marsha Stern Academy (MTA) — as well as at the Kings Bay YM-YWHA. The museum plans to expand the program to at least six Jewish day schools. Gabriel Goldstein, a project director and independent curator, and Ilana Benson, a museum educator, will administer the program.

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Of Women, Comics, and Reclaiming Jewish Stereotypes

By Tahneer Oksman

While various critics have noted the strong influence that Jews have had on the creation of American comics, few have fully explored the role of Jewish women. Yet Jewish women have often been at the forefront of creative explorations in the graphic narrative form. And in many of their comics, Jewish identity is a fertile site of exploration of the unstable, contradictory, and ambiguous figurations of the self in a postmodern world.

Aline Kominsky-Crumb

In a June 23 talk at the New York Public Library in connection with the Forward-sponsored “Graphic Details” exhibit, I will discuss how Jewish identity figures in the works of various contemporary cartoonists, especially those of Aline Kominsky-Crumb. In her autobiographical comics, Kominsky-Crumb plays with long-held stereotypes about Jewish women and their bodies, about women and their bodies more generally, and about the representation of such bodies in the interface of various autobiographical modes. While her work has caused some to refer to her as “sexist and anti-Semitic,” Kominsky-Crumb does not simply reject such bodily codings in favor of new, more politically correct portrayals of Jewish women. Instead, she confronts stereotypical representations of Jewish women by recognizing how ingrained they are in her subjectivity and by portraying them as a constant and sometimes even productive influence in how she sees herself and others. Her work offers up the possibility that longstanding categorizations of the Jewish woman can become empowering, depending not only on who is making the statement (or creating the image), but also on how it is being made.

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Are We Living in a Golden Age of Jewish Art?

By Matthew Baigell

Most people do not know that we are living in a golden age of Jewish American art. But, as I will explain in a lecture at the Jewish Museum on March 7, we are.

‘In the Land of the Brave’ by Siona Benjamin

Since around 1975, there has been an incredible but largely ignored outpouring of art based on the Bible, the Talmud, Kabbalah, the prayer books, and midrash by artists all over the country. Depending on their points of view — feminist, psychological, existential — they approach their subject matter in entirely different, personal ways. Rather than illustrate texts they challenge their subject matter, as well as invent explanations of their own. Their work has little precedent in past Jewish American art, and the artists have leap-frogged back over generations to find their source material directly in the ancient texts. Taking nothing for granted, they have few inhibitions about questioning what they find.

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Making Home Movies in Interwar Poland

By Shoshana Olidort

“Greetings from Home,” by Sam Auerbach and Heshel Shorr, (1926). Poster designed by Leib Kadison. Courtesy of American Jewish Historical Society, Kanof American Yiddish Theater Poster Collection (Reproduction).

When the anti-immigration laws of the early 1920s effectively sealed the gates of the United States to would-be immigrants, the Jews of Eastern Europe who had arrived en masse between 1880 and 1920 could no longer hope to see their loved ones join them in America. Instead, those who could afford to traveled abroad, visiting the cities and towns they had left behind. Often, they brought with them amateur film cameras, which were increasingly popular in the 1920s, to capture the world of their childhoods.

These films are the subject of “16mm Postcards: Home Movies of American Jewish Visitors to 1930s Poland,” a new exhibition at the Yeshiva University Museum in collaboration with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which will have its opening on Tuesday November 9 at New York’s Center for Jewish History.

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Brightly Lit: Illuminated Traveling Texts

By Shoshana Olidort

For centuries, the people of the book have also been a people perpetually on the move. Always, Jews took their books with them, writing and reading as they traveled. And, despite widespread assumptions about Judaism’s historically ambiguous relationship vis-à-vis painting and drawing, many of these books — manuscripts and printed works alike — were lavishly decorated with illustrations, ornate borders and brilliant colors.

A new exhibition at the Yeshiva University Museum presents a sampling of such works, mostly Esther scrolls, Jewish marriage contracts and various manuscripts and printed books, from the private collection of Renee Braginsky. The exhibit, called “A Journey Through Jewish Worlds,” traces the history of Jewish life in relation to sacred Jewish texts and important documents.

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